My grand gesture was flowers. To be more precise it was orchids and champagne truffles. I was in the US mid-west last week. I realised when I arrived Monday that Thursday was Valentine’s Day…and that I was going to be away from home. My logic was impeccable. I chose the most reputable delivery service I could find. I ordered on line, wrote my message and paid – with delight – for ‘guaranteed named date delivery’.
I was so proud of myself. It’s these little things that always make me feel happy. The idea that my wife would not get just a card, but also flowers and chocolates…on Valentines Day…and I had made it happen from my US hotel room. She would be so surprised. And pleased.
The leadership team meeting I attended was a great success. My simple measure of a successful meeting is that I get something – ideas, insights or information – that I didn’t have when I arrived. It is always exciting when a team begins to gel, to work together better and to deliver more.
Thursday I was visiting one of our US sites. I woke up very early – one of the benefits of jet lag. I turned on my phone and saw I had a text message from my wife. Text messages are always nice when I am away from home but this one was unexpected. Very much. ‘Have you checked your case? I left something in it for you.’
Really? I thought? What? I swung round on my chair and checked my case. And there, in the side pocket, I found my Valentine’s Day card. My wife had written it before I left home. And had slipped it into my case. I had no idea. I was so surprised. And pleased. I opened it. Like most Valentine’s Cards it was simple. A heart. “Be Mine” ‘Love you’.
So simple. So sweet. Such a surprise. I was so far away but I felt so close. I called her.
I had time to get to the fitness center before I left for my site visit. I felt good as I exercised. I smiled as I thought how my surprise for my wife was still to come. I knew she would text me when it was delivered.
I started to worry a little after my first couple of sessions on site. With time differences we were already at UK early afternoon…and no text message. But there was still time – it was guaranteed delivery after all.
It was only later in the day that I had to accept that I had experienced ‘silent failure’ – that moment when a system or process doesn’t do what it said it would do, but the user or recipient is not informed. The user (me in this case) believes they have done everything right…but it turns out something has not worked…and yet the user gets no indication off the failure.
I called my wife on the way back to the airport. I had to tell her about my unsuccessful attempt at a grand gesture. How I couldn’t believe I had succumbed to silent failure. I was so frustrated. But my wife was only pleased to talk to me at the end of her day. And she was only delighted I was coming home. Nothing else mattered to her.
As I sat there waiting for my flight I read her surprise card again. I smiled. I felt so good. Her gesture was so simple. But it had such an impact on me. I realised that simple would have worked better. Simple always works. A few words. The right time. The right place.